Weekend Gourmet: Scoop It Up!

This edition of Weekend Gourmet celebrates one of summer’s most iconic treats, ice cream. With the help of an ice cream maker, it couldn’t be easier to turn your kitchen into an ice cream parlor. You don’t need to buy any fancy or expensive models to make gelato, sorbet, sherbet, or classic custard based ice cream. It’s all about how creative you want to get, so next time you visit your favorite gelateria, look around and be inspired by their flavors. Here are some of the most inspiring recipes I found on the blogosphere, and I think you will agree with me that they are all scoopalicious!

Michelle, the Brown Eyed Baker made the above pictured Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry Ice Cream, which is custard based and studded with big chunks of toasted almonds and sweet cherries. The recipe is simple and straightforward, but the result is anything but plain…crunchy, creamy, and chewy all at the same time! Who can resist?

This take on the classic combination of mint and chocolate by Marzipanmom is pure indulgence! Her Mint Chip Ice Cream contains bits of Ghirardelli’s Mint Bliss Chocolate, and it’s topped off with a luscious Mint Chocolate Ganache with Creme de Menthe. This is worth every calorie!!

I’m a huge fan of Nutella, so when I saw the Nutella & Mascarpone Ice Cream with Hazelnut Praline that Ellie from Almost Bourdain had made, I knew I had to share it. This is as rich and sinful as ice cream can get, and I can’t think of a better combination than the earthy flavor of hazelnuts and the silky smoothness of mascarpone. Wow!

Susi at Susi’s Kochen Und Backen Adventures has taken the heavenly combination of bananas, caramel, and nuts to a whole new level with her Banana Cajeta Cashew Gelato. I love how there are a lot of bold flavors here – there’s goat milk in the cajeta, and the ice cream gets an interesting twist from salted chashews. Divine!

So get our your ice cream makers and start scooping!

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Ricotta Fritters

Ricotta Fritters

Ricotta cheese is one of my favorite staples for quick and delicious meals. I use it for savory tarts, Italian cheese cakes, salads, and pasta dishes. For a great dessert made in minutes, I serve a dollop of ricotta along fresh fruit, drizzle it with honey, and sprinkle some toasted almonds on top. Raspberries and peaches are especially good, and any mild honey such as acacia or sunflower works best.

Ricotta fritters are another great way to make use of this versatile cheese. Make sure to use real Italian ricotta (such as from Galbani). American made ricotta cheese commonly sold in grocery stores is pretty tasteless and has nothing in common with the real thing. One taste of milky sweet Italian ricotta and you will never look back! For the salad, any ripe tomatoes will do. I used mini San Marzano tomatoes, but you could also use cherry tomatoes or larger varieties.

Ricotta Fritters (serves 2)
250g fresh Italian ricotta (e.g., Galbani)
1/4 to 1/2 cup flour
1/ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 egg
1 egg white
salt
pepper
oil for pan frying

1. Combine the ricotta, flour, parmesan, chives, egg, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Adjust flour so that the batter is not too soft.
2. Beat egg white until stiff peaks form.
3. Gently fold beaten egg white through the ricotta batter.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan.
5. Drop generous tablespoonfuls of the batter into the pan and gently flatten with a spoon.
6. Cook on each side until done.

Tomato Salad With Cucumber And Mint (adjust amounts to your liking)
tomatoes, sliced or chopped into small pieces
cucumber, diced
onion, thinly sliced
balsamico bianco
extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper
fresh mint, cut into small strips

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
2. Let stand for about 20 minutes and serve along ricotta fritters.

Enjoy!

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Summer Soup With A Twist

Minestrone Soup

A bowl of warm soup seems like such a contradiction in the middle of summer, but given the right ingredients and preparation it can be a great dish that makes you feel refreshed and replenished. Take Vietnamese pho, for example. This fantastic soup is eaten throughout the year all over Vietnam, even during the very hot tropical summer months. The clear broth is delicately flavored with star anise and ginger, while soft rice noodles, chili peppers, plenty of herbs, and thin slices of beef provide wonderful layers of different aromas and textures. I never thought I could eat steaming hot soup in 100F weather, but slurping my first bowl of pho taught me a different lesson!

The following recipe is not as exotic as pho, but a light minestrone with lots of fresh vegetables that gets a kick from couscous cooked with mint and fresh chili peppers. The entire soup including the couscous can be made in about 30 minutes, so this is a great meal for a light midweek dinner. Crusty Italian bread or baguette makes a great side.

Minestrone with Peppered Couscous and Mint (serves 4)
200g zucchini, cut into small cubes
150g potato (firm cooking), peeled and cut into small cubes
1 can cannellini beans
100g carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 onion, finely diced
120g couscous
fresh red hot chili pepper, thinly sliced (adjust heat by using smaller amount)
fresh mint, cut into thin strips
1 dried bay leaf
chives
4 cups vegetable broth
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, optional

1. Heat oil in a wide pot. Saute onion until translucent.
2. Add carrots and bay leaf and saute for 1 minute.
3. Add potatoes and broth and simmer until almost tender.
4. Add zucchini and beans and simmer until all vegetables are tender, but not overly soft.
5. Cut chives into small pieces and add to soup.
6. While soup is cooking, prepare couscous according to package instructions (use vegetable broth instead of plain water for cooking couscous). Stir mint and chili pepper into dry couscous, then add soup. Cover and let sit until couscous is tender.
7. Serve soup with couscous.

Enjoy!

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Imperial Temptation

Cafe Imperial Torte

I recently enjoyed some delicious coffee and cake at Cafe Imperial in Vienna. The Cafe is located in the luxurious Hotel Imperial, one of the city’ grand old palaces, featuring original artwork, antique furniture and chandeliers, as well as exquisite butler service. They even iron the daily newspapers that are delivered to the rooms and suites! Cafe Imperial is located on the majestic Ringstrasse, a beautiful wide boulevard that circles the historic city center. The interior oozes Old World charm with comfortable plush seating, chandeliers, and gorgeous display cases full of heavenly cakes and pastries.

I tried their hallmark Imperial Torte, which consist of six layers of thin almond cake that are filled with a velvet cocoa cream and covered with marzipan and a chocolate glaze. It was easily one of the best cakes I have ever eaten. Not too sweet, and completely satisfying. I ordered a Melange (coffee with milk and milk foam on top) with my cake, which was equally tasty – very smooth with a lovely aroma and almost no acidity. The service was just as impressive.

This is a great spot to while away an afternoon, or for an indulgent after-dinner treat. I know I’ll be back soon to try the Schwarze Orange (Black Orange) variation of the Imperial Torte…

Cafe Imperial
Kärntner Ring 16
1010 Vienna
Austria
+43 (1) 501100
Open daily from 7AM to midnight

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Weekend Gourmet: The Mighty Zucchini

Zucchini have got to be one of the coolest vegetables around! Their mild (but fabulous) taste lends itself to all kinds of dishes, from savory to sweet. The firm flesh can be sauteed, steamed, grilled, and even eaten raw. You can use them peeled or unpeeled, sliced into rounds, julienned, cubed, minced, or shaved with a mandoline. The possibilities are endless. For some tasty ideas on how to add culinary spark to your weekend, check out the following treats from around the blogosphere.

Melissa over at Bitchin’ Camero has dished up this wonderful Green Curry Spinach & Zucchini Soup. I love how ordinary ingredients like spinach and zucchini are turned into something extraordinary in this recipe by giving them an Asian twist with green curry paste and coconut milk. How creative! The perfect example for the versatility of zucchini.

For a light and yummy summer lunch, Tracy over at Shutterbean has got just the right recipe. Her Spaghetti with Zucchini, Walnuts, and Raisins look so delicious! This dish cooks in no time, but serves up a burst of flavor. And who can say no to crunchy walnuts paired with sweet raisins? And lots of parmesan on top…mmmm!

And since I think the combination of nuts and raisins in savory dishes rocks, I have to share with you Lydia’s fabulous side dish of Zucchini with Golden Raisins, Pine Nuts, and Lemon at The Perfect Pantry. This would be superb with anything grilled, but especially with chicken or a nice firm fish. Simply delicious!

And for all of you with a sweet tooth (and that includes me), here’s the mouthwatering proof that zucchini pair exceptionally well with chocolate! Lisa from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary made this show stopping Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Don’t you just love the green specks of zucchini in the batter and the generous amount of softly melted chocolate chips on top? What can I say, I have a huge sweet tooth…

So get your aprons out and start cooking up a storm with zucchini this weekend!

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